Breaking the Chain: Washington Lawmakers Forge Compromise on Landmark Drug Possession Legislation

Washington Lawmakers Unveil High-Stakes Plan to Address Drug Possession Ahead of Special Session

In anticipation of a special session, Washington state lawmakers have revealed their pivotal strategy to increase penalties for drug possession. The proposed plan aims to elevate drug possession from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, but the exact timing of the vote remains uncertain as lawmakers assemble in the Capitol today.

This agreement holds the potential to resolve the lingering policy concerns that arose after the state’s drug possession law was invalidated by a Supreme Court ruling in 2021. During the regular legislative session’s final day in late April, a compromise that also sought to raise the penalty to a gross misdemeanor was rejected by the House. Since then, party leaders and legislators involved in the drafting of the compromised proposal have engaged in intense negotiations, intensifying over the weekend.

By late Monday morning, a preliminary “framework” had been established, and later that afternoon, lawmakers convened in private caucuses to learn the specifics of the negotiated proposal. With a deadline of July 1 approaching, when the existing law will expire, failure to pass a bill would effectively decriminalize drug possession statewide, although several local governments have already put forth their own proposals.